Tag Archives: Experience

Now You See Me…


It’s 1 a.m. in Minneapolis, and my friend and I are sharing a 20-inch tall, boot-shaped glass of beer with three young professionals we just met. Polka music is playing in the background, and the air smells like cinnamon and wood smoke.  With each sip of dark brew, we become more pleased that we heeded the advice of a random article about “best hipster bars” and took a cab across town. We each take turns allowing a 75-year-old man to waltz us around the room to the rhythm of the accordion.  We laugh at each other’s expense when he gets a little too close for comfort.  The lights dim and the polka fades into hip hop and the old man disappears.  My friend gets caught up in conversation with a dark and handsome stranger.  I forget myself and approach the attractive guy I spotted when we first walked in.  He’s all-American – blonde hair, blue eyes, and built like a football player.  I grab his hand and lead him into the crowd, knowing that after tonight, he’ll never see me again.


When we travel, we try to absorb as much about a destination as we can.  That’s the point: to discover some place new and discover more about ourselves in the process.  So it makes sense to believe that the longer we stay somewhere, the more we learn.

But there’s something to be said for fleeting getaways.  The quick trips we take just to escape for a moment, where there’s not enough time to adapt to a new environment – there’s only the present.

When we travel somewhere briefly, we remove the stress around doing things “right.”  We don’t have to worry about running into someone we know, or ordering the wrong food, or mispronouncing a word from our phrasebook.  We’ll be gone tomorrow.

Short-term travel might seem a little selfish, but only because it’s liberating.  For one or two days, we can be bolder, braver versions of ourselves.  We can come into people’s lives suddenly and leave them just as soon – and that’s okay.  We can throw ourselves right into the heart of a city with no preparation and little hesitation – and often learn more than we ever would have with more time.    Maybe we don’t come out with lasting friendships, or a new outlook, or a list of best restaurants, but we still leave with memories.  And those are always worth the trip.


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Filed under Monthly Musing

7 Perks of Learning a Foreign Language

With English on track to becoming the “global language,” it almost seems unnecessary for travelers to know the languages spoken in their destinations.  Going with what you know may be the easy route, but it’s not always the most rewarding.  Read below to find out why learning a foreign language is still a worthy endeavor!

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The Obvious

Communicating with local people in their own language can provide a more rich and authentic experience in the country you’re visiting.  You might strike up an interesting conversation, learn about a secret hotspot, score a bargain at the local market, or even be invited to a home-cooked meal.  No matter the country, most people will consider your efforts as signs of respect and treat you accordingly.*

*Parisians, as a rule, are the exception

The Logistical

Sometimes it’s just plain hard to get around in a foreign country.  Signs look funny, maps don’t make sense, and you could have sworn that train was supposed to arrive an hour ago!  When you know the local language, it’s that much easier to (GASP!) ask for directions, understand airport announcements, or negotiate your fare with a pesky cab driver.  We travelers all get lost–we’re used to it.  But if you use your skills to arrive successfully at your destination, you can proudly declare (in your new language): “Not this time!”

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The Motivational

Nobody wants to mess up and look stupid.  Unfortunately, you have to be vulnerable to learn a foreign language–even though you might say something completely wrong (…you will).  Constantly putting yourself out there seems tough, but it makes you more resilient and builds confidence when you finally start getting things right (you will!).   The eventual comfort you develop speaking with foreigners will translate to a greater self-assurance meeting new people in any situation.

The Empathetic

Those who pursue a new language will often find it frustrating, embarrassing, and downright exhausting.  Experiencing the process for yourself will make you understand how difficult it can be for foreigners to learn English.  You’ll come to fully appreciate the people with “a little bit of English” who have helped you in your travels all those times when you didn’t have the words.

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The Practical

Language skills are an impressive addition to any resume.  You might find a job in a country where your secondary language is spoken, or land a position that values capable translators who can deal with certain clients.  Even if language proficiency isn’t part of a job requirement, it shows prospective employers that you are focused, dedicated, and culturally sensitive.

The Journalistic

When you first start learning a new language,  your reading and writing skill levels will be roughly on par with children’s books (e.g. I eat the pasta.  It is good!).  Although you may not be the next great Italian novelist, your simplistic writing style in a new language can actually improve your writing in English.  A limited vocabulary trains your brain to communicate ideas in a concise but effective way.  When you return to English, you’ll realize you can better recognize any extraneous words or phrases obscuring your point.

The Confidential

Calling all companions!  This perk applies to those who learn a language with a friend.  Not only do you have someone to practice with and confide in, you also have a partner in crime.  When you return home, you’ll be able to speak to each other in your new language–it’s like your own secret code!  Just be careful!  You never know who’s listening and can understand…

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Filed under Travel Tips